Tag Archives: Elizabeth Strout

#BookReview ‘Oh William!’ by @LizStrout #contemporary #literary

What a gifted writer Elizabeth Strout is. Oh William! sees the return of Lucy Barton as she meets again her first husband, William, and reflects on love, loss, friendship and the fact that life can seem bewildering. Lucy’s voice is so real it seemed as if we were having a real conversation, face-to-face. Elizabeth StroutThis is the stream-of-consciousness story – complete with ums, ahs, meanderings and distractions – of a few months in Lucy’s life, after the death of her second husband David and when William’s latest wife, Estelle has just left him. Lucy and William were married for twenty years and have two daughters; that’s a lot of baggage. The connections that bind a married couple do not disappear after they are divorced, memories and experiences are inextricably linked. William, now 71, came home one day to find the flat looking odd, with gaps where things should be, and a note from his wife Estelle saying she had moved out. As he explains to Lucy, now a successful writer in her sixties, what has happened, she relives the moment she also left William, how she felt at the time and how she feels now. She calls him Pillie, he calls her Button. They spend more time together and their daughters ask if they are getting back together. In fact, they are investigating a family secret recently revealed when William is given the gift of an ancestry records service. As they travel back into the past of William and of his mother, Catherine Cole, Lucy recalls her own childhood, the neglect, the poverty, and considers how this shaped who she is today.
Strout has written a short, elegant story with hidden depths that draw you in. She explores the affections, regrets, irritations and resentments of a couple, once married, now sort-of friends. They are an everyman couple who loved each other, who were at times thoughtless, cruel, unforgiving and impatient but now show moments of heart-stopping fondness. Lucy recounts the road trip undertaken into William’s past except it is also a journey into her own past as the revelations of someone else’s secrets shed new insight into her own desperately sad childhood.
A novel about human flaws that shows how it’s almost impossible to know ourselves as others see us, as we can never thoroughly know someone else.
This is a companion novel to My Name is Lucy Barton, the first ever book by Strout I read, but each novel can be read independently.

Read my reviews of these other books by Elizabeth Strout:-

If you like this, try:-
Mum & Dad’ by Joanna Trollope
A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara
In Another Life’ by Julie Christine Johnson

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
OH WILLLIAM! by @LizStrout #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5pB via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Amy & Isabelle’ by @LizStrout #contemporary #literary

The mother and daughter portrayed in Amy & Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout are at odds with each other. The events of one long sweltering summer in Shirley Falls are simple, familiar across the ages, but are told with a hefty emotional punch. So strong is this book it’s difficult to see that it was Strout’s first novel, published in 2000 to be followed only eight years later by her Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge. Strout is adept at peeling away the layers of character and events to show the raw emotion, shame, guilt and pain beneath. Elizabeth Strout

When Isabelle Goodrow arrived in Shirley Falls with her baby daughter, she took a job at the local mill. Now, in a time that feels like 1970s America, Amy is sixteen and has a summer job in the same office as her mother. They sit and fume at each other, barely talking, brushing past each other without a word. Amy, who has fallen in love with her maths teacher, believes her upright, unemotional mother, has no idea of what she is feeling right now. Isabelle despairs of her daughter’s behaviour. Told in absorbing detail, switching between the two viewpoints, the trauma of the two women is revealed. Shirley Falls is an evocative setting, an industrial town with a river flowing through it. As the temperature rises, the river begins to stink adding to the stresses not just on the Goodrows but on the small community in which they exist. Strout excels at portraying the circle of characters which make the world of a novel so believable – Amy’s friend Stacy, Fat Bev and Dottie Brown at the mill, Isabelle’s boss Avery Clark.

Isabelle finds it difficult to fit in, has always felt like an outsider. As she judges others, she assumes others judge her. This is more about her own experience and inadequacies than about anyone else. As the summer days plod on and Amy’s affair unravels, we see hints of the truth of Isabelle’s past that go some of the way to explaining why she is as she is.

Difficult to put down, I enjoyed Amy & Isabelle very much. Both women are so real, their situations are real, you want to slap them both and hug them both. Strout writes in an extraordinarily perceptive manner about ordinary people in ordinary places, so real you feel you are in the room too.

Read my reviews of My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible, also by Elizabeth Strout

If you like this, try:-
‘If I Knew You Were Going to be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go’ by Judy Chicurel
The Museum of You’ by Carys Bray
When All is Said’ by Anne Griffin

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
AMY & ISABELLE by @LizStrout #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5id via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Olive Kitteridge’ by @LizStrout #literary #contemporary

Elizabeth StroutThere are some books you read and as soon as you finish them, you want to go back to the beginning. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout made me feel like that. Strout’s writing style is at once beautiful and expressive, economical and un-wordy. She tells you enough detail to create the picture, not one word too many.

The structure is not a linear narrative, instead Strout tells the story of Olive in a series of inter-connected stories set in the small town of Crosby, Maine, where Olive lives with husband Henry. Some stories are told from Olive’s viewpoint, others by by neighbours and people whose path crosses hers; her dry irascible tone made me smile often, but also frown. Olive can be caustic, she tells it as it is. She does not suffer fools and believes she is always correct, though recently her vision of herself has been challenged.  Living in one place for such a long time means she has left a trail through generations of friends, neighbours, shop owners, passers-by and the schoolchildren she once taught. Strout has created a realistic character who is imperfect of whom you warm to because of her faults and because she is as thoughtful and kind as she is prickly.

When the novel starts, Olive is already retired. This is the story of how she deals with ageing and the realisation that her life will have to adapt, her expectations tempered. Actually, Olive doesn’t deal with any of this well whether it is nosy acquaintances or nosy children, of the latter she says, ‘the child out to have her mouth washed out with soap.’ Unaware of the effect she has on others, particularly Henry and their son, Christopher, Olive ploughs on regardless. She seems angry all the time and I was curious about the source of this anger.

If you like novels with a clear straightline story, then this may not be for you. Strout compiles her novels with a patchwork of stories, Olive is the thread that holds everything together. You have to trust the author to tell you the story her way.

A 5* book for me.


Strout was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for Olive Kitteridge and Frances McDormand played Olive in the HBO television series of Olive Kitteridge. Olive Kitteridge

Read my reviews of My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible.

If you like this, try:-
The Stars are Fire’ by Anita Shreve
Gilead’ by Marilynne Robinson
The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
OLIVE KITTERIDGE by @LizStrout #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3YZ via @SandraDanby